The California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Central Valley Region (Board) has recently released its long anticipated Long Term Irrigated Lands Program. The Board at its April 2010 meeting will consider the framework of the Program, a Programmatic EIR and a continuation of the current general order for another 3 years.
The proposed framework is for the Board staff (Staff) to develop individual general orders for six specific geographic areas and one commodity, rice. The scope of the program will cover all irrigated lands and managed wetlands within the Central Valley. Its stated objective is to protect ground and surface waters in the Central Valley. As a result, the new regulatory program will include groundwater regulation and monitoring.
The Staff proposal indicates that 3 Tiers will be developed. Tier 3, areas with known ground or surface water problems, will be subject to more stringent monitoring and management practice requirements. The geographic areas may have more than one tier so that individual areas could be subject to differing management or monitoring constraints. The Staff expects that upon adoption of the framework within 12 months, general orders will be developed for the geographic areas and specific commodities. As a result, the framework recommends, a three year transition period to the new program with the existing general order to be in place through the transition.
Since the general orders have not been prepared, the extent of the regulatory requirements including monitoring and management practices is speculative. Additionally, the assumed workload by Staff to develop the geographic and commodity specific orders within a 12 month timeline is questionable. The Board staff’s proposal will certainly concern irrigated agriculture within the Central Valley.